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There were fourteen persons in the current sophomore class, and most days on which classes were held, the majority of them arrived early enough to have breakfast in the dining hall. So did the seniors, Toby and Gabriel and the three soldiers. The junior class rarely showed, nor did the girls of Clarke Tower. The freshman girls usually awoke to a fresh breakfast prepared by Janis. What arrangement the juniors had, Trissiny had never inquired; student housing on the campus was apparently somewhat idiosyncratic.
She replied to Toby’s welcoming smile with a nod, but didn’t pause as she passed his table, heading straight for the sophomores.
They were grouped around two tables, one circular and one rectangular, and her target sat at the latter. By happenstance or design the ten students seated there had arranged themselves with the girls on one side and boys on the other, and it was the girls who had a view of the door and the approaching paladin. Two of them, whom Trissiny didn’t know, watched her warily, but November gave her a brilliant smile, Hildred a cheerful wave, and Natchua narrowed her eyes.
Most of the boys she didn’t know either—Tanq apparently hadn’t come to breakfast this morning—but several turned to see who was approaching, including Chase and Jerome.
Chase, exhibiting a typical lack of self-awareness, grinned broadly at her. “Well! The prodigal paladin. I hope you enjoyed your little jaunt, kiddo. Tellwyrn’s gonna scrub out her sink with your scalp.”
Jerome was watching her with more appropriate wariness. Trissiny came to a stop by their table, pulled a libram from her largest belt pouch and carefully extracted the envelope that had been tucked into its cover for safekeeping. She held this out to Jerome.
“This is for you,” she said, “from your father.”
His eyes narrowed to slits. Across the table, Hildred covered her mouth with a hand, eyes wide; Natchua actually grinned faintly. “Why,” Jerome asked in a tightly controlled voice, “do you have a letter from my father?”
“I expect the contents will explain that,” she replied calmly, still holding it out. After staring at her for a long moment, he finally reached out and took it.
Not waiting to see any further reactions, Trissiny turned and left the dining hall.
“Oh! Hi, Shaeine,” she replied, somewhat startled at being approached. She had been lost in her thoughts. It had been a mostly average morning with a few moments of tension, such as when Tellwyrn opened history class by giving her a blistering look. But no one had asked prying questions and even Tellwyrn hadn’t said anything further. Trissiny didn’t doubt for a moment that retribution for flouting the campus rules was coming; in fact, she was starting to wonder if stretching out the anticipation like this was part of the punishment. That would be exactly like Tellwyrn.
Now, in the lull between Intro to Magic and their lunch period, Shaeine had caught up with her on a winding path which Trissiny had selected specifically because it was a long route to nowhere and gave her time to think.
“Was your mission successful?” the drow inquired politely.
“Partially,” she said. “I had an unexpected interruption, and… I’m sort of stymied on half of what I set out to accomplish. But I did get some of it done.”
“I am glad to hear that much, at least.” Shaiene produced a small rectangular box from within the folds of her robe. “I have something for you.”
“For me?” Nonplussed, Trissiny accepted the box and lifted its lid. Nestled within was a folding knife. A remarkably thick one. “My goodness,” she said, carefully extracting it. “How many blades does this have?”
“Two, of different sizes. Most of those attachments are tools of various kinds. It has tweezers, bottle and can openers, scissors, a magnifying lens and several other items whose purpose I do not understand. Apparently these are manufactured in the dwarven kingdoms, and becoming quite popular among gnomish adventurers. You like useful things; I saw this in a shop in town and thought it would suit you well.”
“That’s…incredibly thoughtful,” Trissiny said, raising her eyes from the utility knife to Shaeine’s serene face. “You really shouldn’t have. How much do I owe you?”
Shaeine raised her eyebrows a fraction of an inch, then smiled faintly, permitting a touch of ruefulness into her expression. “Ah…forgive me, I failed to express myself clearly. That is a gift.”
“It is?” Trissiny’s response might have been less than polite, but she was startled. “Why? What’s the occasion?”
Shaeine glanced to the side for a moment as if marshaling her thoughts. “I must ask your pardon if I trespass upon a sensitive subject; I assure you it is inadvertent, if so. I know you have had a stressful time recently.”
“You…could say that.”
She nodded. “I have observed that Imperial customs favor feasting, gatherings of loved ones and gift-giving on celebratory occasions, and largely symbolic gestures and platitudes when someone has been hurt. Among my people, it is much the opposite. A friend’s most troubled moments are seen as the appropriate time to remind them that they are valued. And kind words do only so much.”
“I see,” she said slowly, feeling a smile stretch unbidden across her face. “Thank you.” Her voice was soft, but full of feeling.
Shaeine nodded at her, and for once that polite little smile of hers didn’t seem standoffish. “Perhaps it is a failure on my part to adapt to local customs, but I cannot help feeling that in this instance, the Narisian way is the wiser.”
“I’d never thought about it, but now that you bring it up I think you have a point.” Trissiny turned the knife over in her hand silently for a moment. “Is it… Are you badly stressed by how things are up here? You left the party so early, I was concerned.”
The drow tilted her head, considering, and began moving at a slow pace; Trissiny fell into step beside her. “I would not claim that my culture shock is worse than yours,” she said at last, “but the particular nature of it may impact me more directly. Among my people, reserve is cultivated from early childhood primarily as a measure of respect for others. We live in very close quarters, and it can be stressful indeed to cope with the feelings of everyone around you, constantly pressed in upon your awareness. In Tar’naris, emotional openness is practiced between family members and occasionally other intimates. Among friends, colleagues and particularly strangers, we seek not to impose the weight of our feelings on others.”
“I see,” she said. That actually explained quite a bit.
Shaeine nodded. “Everything is so much louder and more open here; even still, I find myself constantly startled by the frankness of those around me. Yet, there is much more space in which we can spread out, so the pressure is mitigated somewhat. That party, though… It was an enclosed space filled with loud talk, laughter and a general…letting go of inhibitions. The proximity to so much feeling began very quickly to be an almost tangible pressure to me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said automatically.
“Please do not be, you’ve done no wrong. Nor did anyone else there. I suppose I am rather a poor diplomat, to be coming to terms with this culture so slowly.”
“I wouldn’t dismiss yourself that easily,” Trissiny protested. “It’s only been a couple of months. You’re already the most even-natured and understanding person I know.”
“I appreciate that very much.”
“So…are you empathic, then? Is that typical for drow?”
“No more than the average person anywhere, I suspect,” she said with a smile. “Merely unaccustomed to certain kinds of emotional expression. And, more to the point, certain volumes thereof.”
Trissiny nodded slowly. “With everything I learn about Narisian culture, I feel like I understand you a little better and Natchua a little less.”
“I have had the converse experience. With exposure to Imperial life, I am constantly gaining insights into my own culture that reflect its imperfections. Yet, I feel I’m developing an understanding of my cousin that I initially lacked.”
“You made it sound as if all the fuss and prattle up here was almost painful for drow.”
“I would draw a distinction between Narisians and drow in general. The Scyllithene drow are far more aggressive than any human I have ever met. As for pain…” She tilted her head, mulling. “Perhaps…in the way that slipping into a very cold pool is uncomfortable at first. Very quickly, it becomes bracing. At home I would never dream of revealing every thought or feeling that passed across my mind; it would be the height of disrespect to those around me, making them deal with my emotions on top of their own. But here, where everyone does exactly that and is accustomed to coping with it, where I might relax myself with the assurance that it is harming no one to do so… Well, I have begun to understand why Natchua has so fervently embraced Imperial life.”
“Yet you don’t, and she does.”
“Because I am more than my own desires. I am a representative of Tar’naris and House Awarrion; my conduct reflects upon my mother, my people and my queen. I would not dream of disappointing them. Besides, even as I grow to recognize that my culture has its flaws, it remains mine, the way of life in which I am invested. I feel no desire to show a lack of respect for it.”
Trissiny nodded. “I’ve been feeling much the same, in some ways. Strangely liberated, yet…focused.”
“Oh?” Shaeine raised an eyebrow.
To her own surprise, Trissiny laughed softly. “I’m half elf. Who would have thought it?”
“I suspected; you have the aspect, and it has been my impression that a typical human even in excellent shape would balk and running down and up the mountain stairs in full armor every morning. I saw neither opportunity nor reason to broach the subject, though.”
“Yes, a lot of things are suddenly making sense to me in hindsight. And at first I was… Scared, and upset, because it felt like I no longer knew who I was. But… I’ve come to see that as a blessing.”
Shaeine was silent as they walked, her head slightly tilted toward Trissiny to show her attention. After a moment spent gathering her thoughts, the paladin continued.
“Ever since Avei called me, I’ve felt the weight of expectations. It was like I couldn’t afford to be flawed any more. Everything I did reflected upon her, and the thought of letting her down was just…unbearable.”
“I doubt Avei would call any mortal to her service if she expected flawlessness.”
“Which I can understand intellectually,” she said, nodding, “but feeling it was a different matter. It doesn’t even make sense, really. This revelation has no bearing at all on my calling, but it’s somehow freeing. I’m not that girl I thought I was. I’ve been so wrong about something so pivotal, it’s like I’ve rediscovered the prerogative to be wrong. And,” she added, wincing, “in hindsight I keep finding things I’ve been wrong about, that I wouldn’t back down from because to retreat, any retreat, felt like failing my goddess.”
“Perhaps you should not discount the chance that she has had a hand in events,” Shaeine suggested. “It may be that this is her way of opening your mind.”
“That has occurred to me. Of course, it’s not the kind of thing you can up and ask a deity. They don’t generally seem inclined to explain themselves.”
“I have noticed that,” Shaeine said dryly.
Trissiny managed not to wince at being called. November Stark was approaching them rapidly, wearing a bright smile. “Hi, November. Have a good weekend?”
“Hail and well met, Hand of Avei!” To Trissiny’s horror, she stopped and dropped to one knee, bowing her head. “I pray your mission met with success!”
“Please don’t do that!” Trissiny said in alarm, resisting the urge to grab the girl and drag her upright. “We don’t kneel. A Sister would salute a superior officer, but even the High Commander doesn’t get more than that.”
“Oh…ah, of course.” November bounced back upright, raised a hand and then let it hang in midair as if uncertain what to do with it. “Um, how do… I mean, what’s the proper way…”
“You don’t,” Trissiny said firmly. “You’re not a Legionnaire or even in the Sisterhood. Lay Avenists don’t owe me anything but basic courtesy.”
“That can’t be!” November insisted, staring ardently at her. “You’re the Hand of Avei, the chosen representative of our goddess on this world. Surely some show of respect—”
“Courtesy,” she interrupted, “is plenty of respect. Avenists don’t grovel or subjugate themselves. Even the goddess doesn’t demand that. Really, November, you’re overthinking it. Just be yourself.”
“I can do that,” she said, nodding eagerly, and Trissiny held back a sigh.
The Sisters of Avei prized discipline, order and clear thinking above mysticism and blind faith. These were the priorities their goddess encouraged. As a result, the cult didn’t tend to attract fanatics, and Trissiny had rarely met any. Mother Narny had told her that such women nearly always came from a background of some kind of abuse and desperately needed something to believe in. As such, she remained as patient and positive as she could with November, no matter how uncomfortable the girl made her.
“November, have you met Shaeine?” she said, seizing upon a distraction. “Shaeine nur Ashaele d’zin Awarrion, this is November Stark.”
“Pleasure,” November said distractedly, barely glancing at the drow before returning her gaze to Trissiny. There was an almost worshipful light in her eyes that the paladin found unsettling.
“The honor is mine,” Shaeine replied politely, despite the fact the person to whom she was being introduced was no longer paying her any mind, then she, too, returned her attention to Trissiny. “I must say that surprised me. I do not recall introducing myself by Narisian honorifics on this campus.”
“I looked it up,” she explained a little self-consciously. “It’s seemed to me you don’t get as much respect around here as you deserve… And maybe I still feel a little guilty about almost drawing steel on you when we first met.”
“I see,” the drow said quietly, then gave Trissiny one of those rare smiles that had real feeling behind it. “That was extremely thoughtful. You even got it right. I have been incorrectly addressed by members of the Imperial diplomatic corps on multiple occasions.”
“Oh, good, I was worried about that. I did my best, but you guys have a lot of honorifics and I’m none too sure I understand the hierarchies they all apply to.”
“Trissiny’s very considerate,” November said somewhat loudly. She was looking at Shaeine now, and her expression held tension verging on hostility. “You should see her in our divinity class.”
Trissiny was trying to recall what she’d done in divinity class that was particularly considerate when she was addressed by someone else to whom she really did not want to talk.
“Hey, Trissiny!” Gabriel called, strolling over to them. “Hi, Shaeine. Ms. Stark, good to see you,” he added almost deferentially, actually bowing his head. Despite herself, Trissiny felt amusement bubbling up. He really didn’t want to provoke November, and she couldn’t say he was wrong in that. It raised the question of what he wanted to urgently that he was willing to risk it.
“Gabriel,” she said calmly in unison with Shaeine’s greeting. November just stared at him through narrowed eyes.
“Sorry to bother you, I won’t be long,” he said almost hurriedly, “but this is the first time I’ve caught you since Friday, and I wanted to ask you something.”
“Well, y’know that fighting practice you do with Teal and Ruda in the mornings?”
“Yes, I know it,” she said carefully. “How do you?”
“It’s…sort of interesting to the gossip mill around here,” he said with a wince. “I was just wondering, I mean… If it’s a girls only thing, that’s fine, I won’t bother you, I know how it is with Avenists sometimes. But if not, would you mind if I tagged along?”
“You?” Her eyebrows shot up. “Why?”
“Well, in case you haven’t noticed in class…and I’m pretty sure you have…I kind of suck at fighting,” he said, grinning ruefully. “And you’re the best one in the class. If you’re teaching people anyway… I mean, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d really like to benefit from your experience.”
She stared at him blankly for a moment, and he actually took a step back.
“Hey, if not, that’s fine, I don’t want to be a bother. It was just a—”
“You’re coaching other students in hand-to-hand combat?” November burst out, her eyes practically shining.
Trissiny pressed down a sudden urge to slug Gabriel on general principles.
“YOU!” Jerome roared, stalking toward her from the bend in the path up ahead. In his fist was clutched a crumpled sheet of paper.
“You are extremely popular of late,” Shaeine commented quietly.
“This one, at least, I was expecting,” Trissiny replied in the same soft tone. That was all she managed before Jerome stomped right up to her, brandishing the letter.
“You fucking bitch, you got me disinherited!”
“Uh…not your best approach, man,” Gabriel said carefully.
“I think you will find,” Trissiny replied calmly, “you got yourself disinherited. The matter is probably explained in some detail in that missive.”
“Because of you!” he snarled, wagging the crumpled letter in her face so rapidly she wouldn’t have had a chance of reading it, even had she been so inclined. “If you hadn’t stuck your fucking nose in—”
“How dare you!” November shot back, matching his tone for ferocity. “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?!”
“November, I can handle this,” Trissiny said firmly, stepping to one side to place herself between the two sophomores.
“Oh, yeah, you just love handling things,” Jerome raged. “Are you fucking happy now? Does this make you feel powerful, you fucking cunt?”
Gabriel winced. “Oh, Jerry…no.”
“Your parents were absolutely crushed when I spoke to them,” Trissiny said, holding tightly to her calm. “Devastated to learn you had attempted to force yourself on a female classmate, and humiliated at having to hear about it from me.”
“What they were not,” she went on loudly, “was surprised. They have a portrait of you in their formal parlor, Jerome. Hunting trophies displayed with your name on them. I could see touches of you all over the house; it wasn’t the home of heartless people who would cast aside their son at the first report of wrongdoing on his part. This has been building for some time, hasn’t it? I wonder what else you’ve done that has been a disappointment to your House?”
“How dare you—”
“You will note that you are, as of receipt of this letter, disinherited. Not disowned. It seems to me your family is leaving open the door for you to redeem yourself. There is no time like the present to start.”
He gaped at her, fishlike, opening and closing his mouth, before finding words. They came out in a strangled screech. “Do you have any idea who I am?!”
“You’re some guy,” Trissiny said evenly, “without the backing of a powerful House, who is getting aggressive with the Hand of Avei. Tell me, in what scenario does this end well for you?”
Jerome glared at her, quivering with impotent rage. Finally he stuffed the letter into his pocket and spat, “Whore,” before turning to stomp away.
“The boy just doesn’t learn,” Gabriel said wonderingly.
“Gabriel.” She turned to face him, and he actually shied back from her. “I’m sorry.”
Gabe blinked twice, then glance at Shaeine and November, as if for clarification, before returning his attention to Trissiny. “I, uh… You what, now?”
“For my role in our altercation,” she said. “I acted wrongly, and owe you an apology.”
“Oh. That.” He managed a weak grin, waving her off. “Well, I pretty much started the whole stupid thing, so…”
“Yes, you did,” she agreed, nodding, “but I escalated it to violence. That was both foolish and morally wrong. So, I am sorry. Especially for that, and also for being so stubborn. I should have apologized weeks ago.”
“Water under the bridge.” He seemed to have regained some of his equanimity. “I’ll forget about it if you will.”
“I’d like that.” She managed a smile.
“That’s so kind of you,” November whispered in something like awe.
Trissiny was spared having to reply to that by the arrival of Professor Tellwyrn out of thin air with a soft pop.
“Ah, there you are,” she said grimly. “My office, Trissiny.”
“Right,” she said resignedly. “Let me just—”
“I was informing you, not instructing you.” There came a second pop and she vanished, this time taking Trissiny with her.
She reappeared in the familiar office, off to one side of the room. Chase and Jerome were already present, the latter looking shocked as well as furious; they had evidently been collected as abruptly as Trissiny. Chase, as usual, seemed delightedly intrigued, as if everything going on had been arranged for his amusement.
Tellwyrn seated herself behind her desk, folded her hands on top of it, and glared at them over her spectacles.
“Well. What a busy weekend we’ve all had.”
“Best kind!” Chase said brightly.
“Shut up. I’ve held off dealing with this to find out what Miss Avelea was up to in Tiraas. Yes, Trissiny, I know where you were, and you’d better believe I could have retrieved you, had I been so inclined. I determined this was not necessary, and indeed things have played out in…a marginally satisfactory fashion. Jerome is already somewhat chastened, in a fashion I find rather satisfying. That was impressively quick research, by the way. How did you manage it in the course of one weekend?”
“The Nemitite clerics in Tiraas seemed quite eager to be of service. It appears there are Imperial records on everything. The bureaucracy is daunting, but professional guidance gets one through it quite quickly.”
“Then I’m sure you discovered that no one cares enough about the doings or fate of Chase Masterson to take an interest in the matter.” Across the room, Chase grinned brightly at them. “I wonder, how did your meeting with the Shaathist monastery in which he was raised go?”
“I didn’t bother,” Trissiny admitted. “Shaathists would be as likely to greet me with arrows as agree to a meeting, and anyway, the Huntsman who filed Chase’s final reports quite specifically indicated their order had no further interest in him.” She glanced coolly over at Chase, earning another grin in reply.
Tellwyrn shook her head. “In one respect, I find I’m rather proud of you. Rather than going for your sword, you found a pretty graceful way to dispense justice.”
“Thank you,” Trissiny said.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Tellwyrn said grimly. “You are still in trouble.”
“I assumed as much.”
“Good, then you’re doing better than these two.” The Professor shifted her stare to the boys. “As I see it, we have two big problems here: First and foremost, you don’t seem to grasp the seriousness of what you’ve done. As a disturbing bonus, you don’t understand the stupidity of it.”
“What we did?!” Jerome burst out. “We were just flirting with the dryad, there’s no need for—”
“I WILL INFORM YOU WHEN YOU MAY SPEAK.”
Tellwyrn’s voice filled the room so thoroughly the framed pictures on the walls rattled. She had to have been using magic. For a moment, she allowed silence to reign, then continued.
“To begin with, you will both research and present to me five-page annotated papers on the known habits of dryads. By the end of this, you will at the very least understand how close you came on Friday night to an exceedingly grisly fate. That leaves the first and greater of my concerns: your disdain for the severity of this offense. Boys… It’s not just Avenists who get excited when you press your attentions on a woman who has indicated she doesn’t want them. That doesn’t go over well anywhere. I want you to consider that there were over a dozen elves in that building, all of whom could hear very well what was happening on the balcony, and every one of them—yours truly included—decided to let you antagonize the dryad and get reduced to a pile of giblets.”
“Giblets?” Chase said in a fascinated tone. “Juniper? You’re joking.”
“I think you’ll find your assigned research very enlightening. Back to the point, I’m in the position of almost regretting the responsibility I have for your welfare. When I find men acting this way at large in the world, I generally just teleport their skeletons three feet to the left and have done with it. Here…it seems I’ll have to find a better way to deal with you. Something…educational.”
She opened a drawer in her desk, reached in and pulled out a handful of glass vials, each stoppered and containing a murky purple liquid. Tellwyrn tossed one of these to Chase; he caught it reflexively.
“What’s all this, then?”
Chase jerked his gaze up to hers from his perusal of the tiny vial. “Um. Pardon?”
“You heard me,” Tellwyrn said with a hint of grim amusement. “That is an alchemical treatment which will, for a time, deny you the use of the organ which you’ve been allowing to make some of your decisions recently. It’s my hope that a month or so spent like that will give some of the blood time to redirect itself to your brain. You will report to Professor Rafe every evening immediately following your last class for your treatment until I say otherwise. Both of you.” She tossed another to Jerome, whose face had lapsed into morose sullenness.
For just a moment, Chase stared at her with something very like rage, before marshaling his expression so completely it almost seemed as if it had never been anything but affably unconcerned. “I see. That’s actually kind of clever. And, just hypothetically, if we…decline to drink this vial of voodoo?”
“Then I’ll have to find a less sophisticated way of punishing you,” Tellwyrn said sweetly. “Making use of whatever resources are available. And oh, look! I have a Hand of Avei right here. You can deal with me, boys, or you can deal with her.”
Chase glanced quickly back and forth between them, then actually chuckled. “Well then! I find this a poetic and very appropriate resolution to this little misunderstanding, and look forward to being properly chastened. Bottoms up!” He plucked the cork from the vial and swiftly drank down its contents, then raised his eyes in surprise. “Mm…not bad. Blackberry!”
“It’s flavored?!” Tellwyrn burst out before catching herself, then removing her spectacles to pinch at the bridge of her nose. “…Admestus. All right, you too, Lord Conover.”
Jerome looked for a moment as if he might try an outright rebellion right there in the office, but then his shoulders slumped defeatedly. Without a word, he uncorked and drank his vial.
“And that just leaves you, Avelea. I trust you understand why you are facing disciplinary action?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Trissiny said crisply. “Leaving the vicinity of Last Rock without permission is prohibited. I apologize for disrespecting your rules, Professor. It was a matter of my calling.”
“Well, you’ve got half of it. The other, and perhaps greater issue, is that you usurped my authority. I make the rules on this campus, Trissiny, and I enforce them. I may, as in cases exactly like this one, sometimes ask your assistance in dealing with certain matters, but that is up to my discretion. You do not take it upon yourself to deal out punishments for infractions of my rules at my University.” Her green eyes bored into Trissiny’s, their expression relentless. “I don’t care what is at stake or whose Hand you are. On this campus, I am god.”
A crack of thunder struck so close that the whole room rattled; all three of those standing before the desk jumped violently in startlement, then gaped at the windows behind Tellwyrn, which had the curtains drawn back to show a stunning view of the cloudless blue sky over the Golden Sea.
Professor Tellwyrn’s left eye twitched slightly. She tore off her glasses and tossed them down on the desk so hard they bounced, then stood, turned, opened the window, leaned out so far that her whole upper body was suspended over the drop down the cliff, and roared at the empty sky.
“YOU HEARD ME!”
Thunder rumbled again, much more distantly.
Growling, Tellwyrn ducked back in and slammed the window shut hard enough to rattle the panes. “Nosy bastards. Gods are like police: never at hand when you need one and knee-deep in your business the rest of the time. Anyway, Trissiny, you will report to Stew every night for a week for your disciplinary action. He will direct you to dig a hole deep enough for you to stand in.”
Trissiny frowned. “And then?”
“And then, fill it in.”
“…I don’t understand.”
“I’m not an idiot, Trissiny. The purpose of your dish washing sessions with Mr. Arquin was to force you into his company in the hope that you would find an accommodation. It was a less cordial one than I was going for, but peaceable enough. It was not lost on Mrs. Oak or myself that you enjoyed the work. Hell, being raised as you were, I’m sure you get a lot of satisfaction from contributing to the upkeep of whatever place shelters you. So yes, I’m well aware that giving you the kind of busy work that would infuriate your roommate is the opposite of punishment. Thus, you will wear yourself out performing humiliating, counterproductive and generally useless tasks until I’m satisfied the memory will flash across your mind any time in the future that you feel an urge to stick your nose into my running of this University. Does that explain matters?”
“Perfectly,” Trissiny said rigidly.
“I’m so glad.” Tellwyrn gave them all an unpleasant smile. “Unless there are any questions…? No? Good. That being the case, everyone knows their assignments. Get lost, all of you.”
“Say, Professor,” Chase said with an ingratiating grin, “if it’s not too much trouble, how about sending us out the way we came in? I was right in the middle of—”
26 thoughts on “3 – 7”
If you support rules and regulations, vote for The Gods are Bastards!
I aim to update at midnight, and missed it tonight by the widest margin yet; it’s 12:40 here by my clock. I sincerely apologize for that. I have satellite internet, which in addition to being overprice and slow (seriously, don’t get satellite if you have any other options), is quite vulnerable to weather conditions. We’re having some spectacular storms this evening; it’s in a lull right now, but my connection keeps getting knocked off. I’m throwing this up while it’s stable and hoping it goes through okay.
It’s funny, how characters can get away from their creator. I first envisioned November as a rather antagonistic character, but every time she actually appears on screen I find myself feeling sorry for her.
I’m rereading this years later, and the earlier “if you support” were much funnier. It seems like the last half dozen were given a lot less thought, idk. Just not terribly funny. The earlier ones were really inspired, as was a lot of the dialog! Maybe it’s not the place to spend your inspiration, I’d admit, but as Yoda sez… 🙂 Still, great stuff, and rereading the entire body of work is very rewarding (necessary, in part, because you have so freaking many characters, and lean towards complexity…did I say lean? i meant “emit cherenkov radiation as you exceed the local speed of light in your drive towards” complexity). 🙂 I think they’re gonna rename “foreshadowing” as Webbing. Rly. Very nice work, overall.
Wow, the TGaB gods do have a long reach. Tellwyrn’s comment really must have annoyed them.
I imagine more like 2 guys at the bar overhearing something offensive and going like “Hey you can’t say that” thunders then seeing big the Dude is and retreating whilst still talking shit under their breath
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Also am I the only one getting some Tales of MU vibe going on here?
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You’re not the only one who’s mentioned it. It wasn’t intentional. They are very different kinds of stories, but the University setting is similar, yes.
Comment coming at you 2 years to the month later: I think what makes it feel similar to Tales of MU for me is specifically Shaeine. She is similar in bearing and attitude to the drow priestess in MU. They are both quite reserved, and are cultural ambassadors who are related to an important member of their city.
Also: they are both from stories that lampshade a DnD-inspired setting.
Its not a bad thing, Shaeine is one of my favorite characters 🙂
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honestly, no. A lot of the backgroudn set up is the same, but the viewpoint is different, the rules are different, and the writing is different. If we’re going to compare to ae, feels more like Star Harbor Nights writing, heh.
As for the bolt, she didn’t jump. she was half expecting it, but still an eye twitch.
I checked out Tales of Mu after the comment above and chewed through about fifty chapters. I agree with you that the similarities are superficial and it feels very different than this writing to me.
And Star Harbor Nights seems to be unavailable, or at least starharbornights.com is.
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Libram? Some very quick research shows it is not in the dictionaries, not even as an archaic word, so this link was enlightening. Jack Vance and D&D, indeed, which also explains (twice) why I recognized it.
It feels like like Trissiny got jumped by every hanging plot thread that was attached to her. However, it was good to see her start growing up a little and the psychology behind her change feels right.
It is good I don’t work in sight of too many other people. It would be hard to explain that I am grinning because a fictional character just sassed the local gods. There are other fantasy / sci fi fans in the office, but it would be better if I kept my Monday-morning reading activities quiet.
Aaand Chase is getting to be an interesting case, and a tough nut.
I have to agree with Tellwyrn here that Trissiny overstepped her bounds by taking it upon herself to discipline the boys for an on-campus offense. Now the result is lopsided – arguably overkill on the one hand while the other boy gets off relatively lightly. That said, I think Jeremy would be the most likely to attempt to reoffend still not accepting that what he did was wrong, while Chase is more go with the flow.
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I agree and disagree with what you said. You’re right, the punishment between the boys is lopsided, and indeed that might be a good thing. However, as far as I can remember, she never explicitly forbade Triss from acting on her own initiative as such. Excepting of course leaving the campus without permission.
Tellwyrn is at best, unpredictable, as is the case with most things she does. Think about what she did in this case. She heard everything that was happening on the balcony, and what did she do? Absolutely no visible indication of doing anything beyond letting them get killed for their stupidity, let alone intervening as a more responsible individual might. It’s unsurprising that Triss wouldn’t just leave the matter for her to handle, given her apparent disdain for the way Tellwyrn generally handles things.
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So just so you’re aware, the quote “the gods are bastards” is actually also Terry Pratchett. Specifically, “He’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards’…”
Seems like something Tellwyn would do.
To me the situation with Chase and Jerome is a little more grey than it is being made out to be. It really could be a misunderstanding of other cultures. “Dryads are nymphomaniacs. We’ve had a foursome with this dryad before. This does not compute.” Of course they should have backed off, I’m not saying they were correct in their actions, but I also am not ready to write them off as scum of the earth would be rapists who have no remorse as to the feelings of others that deserve to die. Need more information before murder comes into the equation as a solution.
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The only person talking about murder was Tellwyrn, and she wouldn’t have done it because they deserved to die, she would have done it because it’s the most expedient way of dealing with the problem.
I agree. I definitely think they should’ve backed off, since even if they didn’t understand her reluctance, the fact that she was reluctant was plainly obvious. That said, for them, it’s a bit like throwing up a ball and not having it come down. They’re idiots for not understanding that Dryad’s are sentient creatures who are capable of acting contrary to their general habits (that is, have sex, a lot), but that’s partially a failing of their teachers.
Also, on the subject of murder: really, none of the elves were willing to interfere? I would have thought Tellwyrn would’ve interfered only because the only people who get to murder students is her. And the other elves must have some kind of cultural differences, because while I don’t like rapists, letting Gaea eat them is a bit much.
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“I would have just teleported their skeletons three feet to the left”
Intentional reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? In that book (movie), it’s a woman’s undergarments being teleported a short distance sideways 🙂
“Trssiny pressed down a sudden urge to slug Gabriel on general principles”
What general principles are those, exactly?
He let November in on the fact that she teaching martial arts in the mornings. Either she has to let or down easy (good luck with that) or let her attend.
So, I’ve had this little rant inside me for a while, and I’ve decided to go for it now I guess.
In this chapter Triss FINALLY apologized to Gabe for that incident before… but it still doesn’t seem right. I mean… the apology was fine, but every person involved seems to still hold the opinion that Gabe was the greater offender.
Now, whether or not he was the instigator is another story, obviously he was annoying her and insulting her directly leading up to the confrontation, which of course was the catalyst for her to draw her sword. But, we must remember that Triss treated Gabe like a literal demon, evil and all, after everyone found out about his blood. Gabe even tells Toby this, that it reminded him of before Uni. Gabe grew up being hated and despised by most people just for his blood, so yeah, to me his bitter reaction is at least understandable.
However, this mirrors Triss’s reaction, in that she too grew up in a closed environment where demons and demon blood is considered evil and all. Her initial reaction is as expected, and you can’t really blame her for that. What is inexcusable is her reaction to his insults. She literally tried to kill him for calling her a ‘bitch’ and a ‘cunt’. Now no matter how rude this may be, if someone will kill a sentient creature over that insult, they are either mentally unstable or plain evil. Prejudices aside, the morally right thing in this situation is to be the bigger person and whatnot, but instead Triss literally tried to murder Gabe. Keep in mind that she is far and away much more powerful than Gabe, and everyone knows this. Just unsheathing her sword causes him great pain.
Now, the first scene leads one to believe that each character gets some sort of redemption arc, Triss with acceptance and using non-violent means and Gabe with becoming less of a general prick in how he talks to people. Mind you, these two things are not on the same level: One is not insulting someone, one is not killing someone.
So Gabe had a redemption arc type story, he apologized, acts better, doesn’t antagonize Triss, and tries to be as nice and accommodating as possible. Triss, on the other hand, refuses to be helpful at all in mending this burnt bridge, doesn’t apologize, acts like she was in the right for trying to LITERALLY KILL HIM OVER INSULTING HER. To top it all off, everyone, including Gabe, thinks Gabe was the biggest offender. Even Toby was pretty much like, “Yeah, I know she tried to kill you because you are a demonblood who called her a mean name, but you should try to tone it down a bit. I mean, we all know how crazy those cultists are if they get called gendered insults!”
Speaking of Toby, I was surprised at his reaction. Like, he is supposed to be a pacifist and love peace and whatnot, but he pretty much excuses Triss like everyone else. May I remind you that Gabe’s offenses were the content of his blood and mean words, while Triss’s were trying to kill another student. Like, I know that Triss is supposed to be the stereotypical paladin, all closeminded to their own righteous beliefs, but Toby shows that a palaidin can be quite the opposite for the most part. So this shows that the problem does not necessarily lie with paladins or the cults in general, but specifically the cult Triss comes from.
This foil in Toby kind of failed his role throughout this encounter, as he should have been teaching Triss to be more open minded and not blindly kill people for harmless actions. Regardless, Triss seems to now have finally learned not to murder her obstacles in every situation, but this still doesn’t sit right with me. First of all, it seems to insinuate that Gabe’s actions were somehow equal to Jerome’s and Chases’s actions. This is obviously not the case, but Triss is kind of like, “I didn’t use lethal force to stop these evil rapists, so I guess I’m sorry that I tried to on you that one time Gabe.” Also, the development of her going from violent solutions to non-violent ones seemed a bit shallow, but maybe I missed something. Like, she never really acknowledged she did anything wrong, and now that’s she has FINALLY apologized, two books later, she still seems to think that he was in the wrong. Along with everybody else, with the exception of maybe Arachne. All in all, it feels fake, and I hope and expect that she will continue to develop further.
Another thing bothering me about Triss is her attitudes concerning Teal and Gabe. Gabe is half-demon, and Teal has a demon inside of her. Both have some way of surfacing and acting. Now, the audience knows or at least has faith in Teal’s demon being helpful and under control. But, even so, Triss kind of just accepts this. Like, “Compassion, love… sure Teal I accept and ignore the fact that you have a demon inside of you that I supposedly hate, made entirely of infernal energy which I have lived my whole life to be in opposition to. Oh and I can’t really know if you are really under control anyway, but sure I trust you.” Then, at the same time, sees Gabe, “Oh Gabe you were born half a demon, well, that’s too bad guess I gotta murder you and treat you like complete garbage because of how I was raised.”
This seems to me to not really be about the demons in all honesty… Like she should be super worried about the demon in Teal even with the Seal of Absolution, I mean a demon is a demon is a demon… or maybe only the demons I don’t like are demons. Like the ones that call me mean names…
My final thoughts after this extremely long rant (sorry) are that Triss is either so deluded in her own world and deity that she resists any change in direct opposition to her worldview in a violent way. The other option to me is that she is a psycho that loves violence, and wants an excuse to be violent. But oh well… If you couldn’t tell after that wall of text, I really have enjoyed your story so far. Thanks!
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It’s kind of amazing Chase managed to live that long.
would balk and running down and up the mountain stairs –> would balk at running
Good scene with gods backing off.
So I know this reply is old, and the original writer might never see this, but some of the ideas have come up in other posts too, and this is just where I wanted to put my own response. First, the Seal of Absolution is exactly why This has no problem with Vidrieny. Her comment in the beginning was “You’d have to be a being of pure evil with a heart of gold” or something like that, so it’s not like she wasn’t aware that Teal had a very dark secret and yet had earned the approval of the church. Plus, they had a very good first impression, though I don’t remember what her first impression of Gabe was. What I remember is that she tried to heal him as a favor, and he got really angry because it hurt, and she realized that he was a demon (or demonblood, but I doubt that was her first thought) and reacted about the way I’d expect a paladin to act when discovering that somebody is demon and is also angry at her. I’m a bit disappointed in her because he’s also Toby’s friend and that should be as good a voucher as the Seal, but she probably wasn’t expecting him to have a demon inside.
My real issue though, is that I consider Gabe’s insults to be “fighting words.” I’m pretty sure that she considers calling somebody a bitch to be a lot worse than we do. I can think of a couple other words that might cause people to attack you today, though they’ll probably just attack you socially rather than drawing a gun on you. This is a western though, and there’s a country song I like where the hero kills a man because he gets insulted for his height. I don’t think that you should attack somebody just because you don’t like a specific word they used but it’s not hard to find plenty of examples where that happens. And I can’t say it isn’t Gabe’s fault that he decided to repeatedly and aggressively insult a heavily and and militant feminist. Her response to even seeing a drow or potential demon was to draw her sword and light. Even Gabe realizes that expecting a different response was stupid, but so many comments seem to be expecting something else from her. I think the proper response is to tell him to back off, but I don’t know how a cop or soldier might react to somebody running up to them and shouting insults.
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